In the 143 Aerobic Grandma columns preceding this one, I don’t recall ever having written about a fitness resource in Sarasota simply because Longboaters generally prefer to work out on this side of the bridge. But there’s a new place in town: Apple Jelly Studios. I consider it noteworthy for a couple of reasons: It offers some forms of exercise that are not available elsewhere or are scarce at best; it is one of the most physically attractive studios that I’ve ever visited; and it has an unusual focus on fun. In addition, its Midtown Plaza location is easily accessible.
Apple Jelly Studios is a collaborative venture of four women who share a passion for pole fitness and dancing. The owners are pole instructors Kim Mancini, Kelly Blake and Sonya Bottini; they met and became friends in a pole class. The fourth is studio Manager Nicole Phillips, their original teacher and a former competitive cheerleader who is certified in and teaches multiple fitness modalities. Phillips brought pole training to Sarasota more than three years ago and merged her former Cherry Blossom Studio into the formation of Apple Jelly.
Before I go further, let me disabuse readers of any notion that pole fitness is the same as pole dancing. Pole classes are for women only but it is not basic training for a career in a bar. Although it combines dance, gymnastics and acrobatics in choreographed moves around a floor-to-ceiling pole, there is nothing overtly sexual about it.
I speak from experience. I recently took the studio’s Intro to Pole class, taught by Phillips. The beginner moves can be mastered by anyone in good physical condition. If you are comfortable doing low-impact aerobics or another form of cardiovascular conditioning and some weight lifting, you can learn to exercise on the pole.
Phillips is a good teacher, which means she breaks down the routine into manageable pieces. The intro class included a good warm-up (so often skipped!) and cool-down. She is also willing to modify for students’ limitations. When I made clear that my knees were just not going to do what she was suggesting, she quickly and kindly came up with something else.
If you exercise regularly, even if you cross-train, boredom can — and does — occur. That’s demotivating and also a reason to try something different. Pole is not only that, it is fun. It was boredom with her routine that got Mancini to try the pole, and she says that during her first class she laughed the entire time.
“I thought it was silly and ridiculous, but I woke up sore the next morning,” she says.
It is a good workout, addressing strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility and body control. Women tend to lack upper-body strength, and the pole gets to that in a hurry. Classes are offered from intro to advanced. The studio is zealous about client safety and requires a progression through the levels.
In addition to pole training, the studio offers classes in TRX suspension training. TRX stands for total resistance exercise. It is the invention of Navy Seals, who wanted something they could do wherever they were. It uses your own body weight as resistance. The only equipment is a pair of canvas straps suspended from above, which adds interesting new dimensions to such basic moves as squats and lunges.
Again, it’s not something I would recommend for a deconditioned individual — but it’s definitely on my list to try.
There are other class options on Apple Jelly Studio’s menu, including slow flow and power yoga and mat Pilates. But Mancini et al are serious about fun and working on adding such new classes as aerial suspension yoga and circus hoops. Aesthetically, the studio is a pleasant place and not just because it’s new. One entire side of the studio is windows, so it is bright and inviting.
Mancini claims she hated to exercise until she attained an age when “things started to jiggle.” “Apple Jelly” was a family nickname for owner Blake when she was a child. It makes a memorable, if incongruous, name for a studio that is dedicated to exactly the opposite, namely ways to stay firm — and have fun doing it.
Apple Jelly Studios is located in Midtown Plaza at Bahia Vista and South Tamiami Trail. A six pack of classes is $100 for pole training, $70 for everything else. The schedule is online at www.AppleJellyStudios.com or call 343-2977.
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer, with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training and a Power Pilates(tm) Mat Certification. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center. E-mail her at email@example.com.